Travelling taste buds
A lifetime of fine dining has left me with a portly figure and some wonderful memories of great meals eaten around the world.
Memorable meals always have good food at their heart, but they also need other elements: a beautiful dining room; great views; exotic produce; a romantic location. So to produce this list of restaurants I'd love to eat in again, I've chosen venues that I've visited around the world that have left an impression on me.
Some of my choices would turn up in any list of great restaurants, but these are my personal favourites and there are some you won't find on any other list.
- The Imperial Herbal Restaurant, Singapore (pictured right).
Unlike any other restaurant I've eaten in, when you enter here a traditional Chinese doctor starts by taking your pulse, examining your tongue and checking your health, before choosing a meal for you that's designed to improve your well-being. You'll eat some extraordinary things, which traditional Chinese medicine decrees will benefit you. I loved the deer-penis wine.
3-8, Lobby G, VivoCity, Singapore. Tel: 0065 6337 0491
- Bo Tung Xeo restaurant, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The restaurant is named after its signature beef dish, marinated with garlic. But in this restaurant you can be adventurous -- scorpions are on the menu, as are dog and cobra. I tried the scorpions after a lot of struggling, and they actually tasted quite good. It's very much a middle price-range restaurant, full of locals, and the food is authentic.
81 Ly Tu Trong Street, Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Tel: 0084 821 7809
- Otabe, New York, USA
Otabe is a Japanese restaurant and it's divided into two rooms: the front part serves a traditional ceremonial menu linked to the seasons, while the rear is devoted to Benihana. It's here I first tasted Kobe beef, supremely expensive but extraordinarily good. Kobe beef calves are massaged several times a day, played soothing music and fed the finest foodstuffs, which results in superbly flavoured, tender meat.
68 East. 56th Street, between Park and Madison, New York, NY10022. Tel: 001 212 223 7575
- Arnaud's, New Orleans, USA
In antediluvian times I was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, staying on Bourbon Street. My first, and by far my best, meal in a city where good food is easily found was in Arnaud's, just off Bourbon. Decorated in the charming post-bellum style of the old south, the room sets the scene for the food. I loved their 'Sweetbread Sins', a stunning dish.
813 Rue Bienville, New Orleans, LA 70112. Tel: 001 866 230 8895
- Spoon Restaurant, Le San Géran Hotel, Mauritius
Le San Géran hotel is one of the world's finest and most luxurious, set on a peninsula on the east coast of Mauritius. I've been lucky enough to go there six times with Chris de Burgh and family and I love the Mauritian fusion of Creole, Tamil and Arab cuisines. Alain Ducasse designed the menu of Spoon to reflect local traditions and international cuisine. Supremely elegant coupled with superb food. For a romantic dinner, it's hard to beat.
Le San Géran, Belle Mare, Mauritius. Tel: 00230 250 2460
- De Kas, Amsterdam, Holland
What makes this restaurant special is its location. Set in a park in the middle of Amsterdam, it's in three very large greenhouses that were once part of the botanical gardens. The restaurant takes up one greenhouse, vegetables the other two, so the produce moves just feet from the ground to your plate. Maybe not the best food in Amsterdam, but the best location by far and very, very green.
Restaurant de Kas, Kamerlingh Onneslaan 3, 1097 DE Amsterdam, Holland. Tel. 0031 20 462 4562
- Louis XV, Monaco
One of the world's great restaurants, it's part of the Hotel de Paris on Monaco's Place du Casino. It's Alain Ducasse's flagship, elegant in an ornate baroque room with high ceilings, gilt mirrors and sconces, fine furniture and exquisite food. Three-star Michelin dining at three-star prices, but a gastronomic experience par excellence.
Hôtel de Paris, Place du Casino, Principauté de Monaco. Tel: 00377 9216 2976
- Hostellerie Jérome, La Turbie, France
Set in the mountains above Monaco in the town of La Turbie, Hostellerie Jérome is one of my all-time favourites. There's an old adage among foodies that a two-star Michelin looking for a third offers the best food. This place confirms the theory. Fabulous food in an old monastic refectory. Knock-out Limousine calves' sweetbreads with truffles.
Rue Comte de Cessole, La Turbie, Cote d'Azur, France. Tel: 0033 492 415 151
- Enoteca Pinchiorri, Florence, Italy
I've eaten two fabulous meals here, but there are voices in Italy claiming it's past its best. It's a three-star Michelin restaurant and the prices are eye-watering, but there's a superb wine list, the service is immaculate and the room is in a beautiful Florentine palazzo. On a good day you'll taste the best of Italy.
Via Ghibellina 87, Florence, Italy.
Tel: 0039 055 242 777
- Antica Bottega del Vino, Verona, Italy
This is a wine-lover's paradise and a restaurant where the wine traders and dealers of the region come to eat and do business. It's very busy, quirky, packed and noisy, and has a wine list of gargantuan proportions, listing the finest French and Italian wines. No better place to have the risotto al Amarone, right where it comes from.
Via Scudo di Francia, Verona, Italy.
Tel: 0039 045 800 4535
- Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Great Milton, Oxford, England
Raymond Blanc's [pictured below] Manoir is a legend in the gastrosphere. Set in Oxford's pastoral idyll, the Manoir is architecturally beautiful, the gardens are a delight and the food is outstanding, as you'd expect from a two-star Michelin rating
Church Road, Great Milton, Oxford, England.
Tel: 0044 184 427 8881
- Corrigan's Mayfair, London, England
Our own Richard Corrigan's flagship restaurant [formerly Lindsay House in Soho]. It's where Richard first impressed Londoners with his skills. I loved the place and especially the purity of his cooking. Richard puts as much effort into sourcing his raw ingredients as he does in preparing them -- a philosophy I admire. His poultry dishes are not to be missed.
28 Upper Grosvenor Street, Mayfair, London. Tel: 0044 207 499 9943
Read Paolo at www.tasteofireland.ie